About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

13 May 2008

F1 Future Directions

After the demise of Super Aguri, Mark Gallagher has written an interesting article on Pitpass.com. This is my take on what needs to be done (and an email I sent to the author).

Fundamentally, I think F1 has lost its "purpose". When I first started to follow F1 back in the 90's (I am only in my 20s), F1 was branded as the toughest and most technologically advanced motorsport series. It was where drivers raced cutting edge motor cars. Sure, technology in F1 cars do not always get to the road car; but it was more than bragging rights for the R&D teams. The cars were tough because they were the most advanced (because they were the fastest, hardest etc).

But due to F1's cost cutting moves, a lot of technology has been "standardised". Sure, there is a lot less electronic gizmos, but it has also meant that there is nothing really that distinguishes one team from another. We are steadily moving to a one make series; and in that case, why not jump ship to A1 GP racing Ferrari F2004s?

In my opinion, there are a number of factors where this situation can be salvaged:
1. KERS is ok, but it is not really what we need
Yes, engine development was one of the major costs in F1 teams. But unlike chassis, there are a lot less engine developers. I think the longevity of engines (2 races, 4 races etc) should be maintained, but freezing engine development for 10 years make no sense. Rather, than focus environmental issues through KERS, why not force development of more efficient engines. And it is far easier to mandate and police.
For example, if FIA mandated that a team could use a maximum of 10 000 litres of fuel (or equivalent energy capacity) per year, and then steadily decrease the maximum; it will force more efficient engines, and thus ultimately cheaper running costs. On top of that, the car buying public will see the effects on the streets. You know - Toyota
brings you the car that can run the equivalent of 18 GPs on one tank of fuel - that is what the car makers want after all.

2. Bring back the tyre war
The car package includes the bit of rubber that keep the car on the road. There is no point on appointing one (or even two) tyre manufacturers. Rather let any interested tyre manufacturer compete openly - and to keep costs down; mandate a maximum number of tyres that can be used over an entire season.

3. Allow chassis sales
If car companies can sell engines, why can design studios not sell chasis? After all, they might also want to sell their expertise to other motorsport series, car manufacturers etc. Chassis sales = lower costs = more teams. And more teams usually equal better show, esp if there is actual competition in qualifying (other than a good grid spot).

4. Better revenue sharing
Instead of sharing revenue between teams according to team's performance on the track, why not modularise? As discussed in the last three points, there are three major components of a car - engines, chassis and tyres. And there are teams that assemble the components and race them. Why not divide the TV revenues into four parts - engine manufacturers, chassis designers, tyre manufacturers and teams. Like teams earn points for finishing in a certain position, points should be earned for engine manufacturers, chassis designers and tyre manufacturers. This means if a team makes their own chassis (9 of them currently), they would make more money than the one or two that didn't. Similarly, engine manufacturers who supply more teams have an incentive to develop and supply engines fairly. Similarly, tyre manufacturers have something more than just bragging rights, and have a reason to focus on all their teams.

Ultimately F1 will still need a better show - but the show is not everything. F1 needs to mean something to the general public - slogans are not just marketing exercises - they define what the product is.

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